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Automatic number plate recognition

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The system must be able to deal with different styles of license plates

License-plate recognition process

Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR; see also other names below) is a mass
surveillance method that uses optical character recognition on images to read vehicle registration
plates. They can use existing closed-circuit television or road-rule enforcement cameras, or ones
specifically designed for the task. They are used by various police forces and as a method

ofelectronic toll collection on pay-per-use roads and cataloging the movements of traffic or
ANPR can be used to store the images captured by the cameras as well as the text from the license
plate, with some configurable to store a photograph of the driver. Systems commonly
use infraredlighting to allow the camera to take the picture at any time of the day.[1][2][3] ANPR
technology tends to be region-specific, owing to plate variation from place to place.
Concerns about these systems have centered on privacy fears of government tracking citizens'
movements, misidentification, high error rates, and increased government spending.

1 Etymology

2 Development history

3 Components

4 Technology

4.1 ANPR in mobile systems

5 Algorithms

6 Difficulties

7 Imaging hardware

8 Circumvention techniques

9 Police enforcement

9.1 Australia

9.2 Belgium

9.3 Denmark

9.4 France

9.5 Germany

9.6 Hungary

9.7 Turkey

9.8 Ukraine

9.9 United Kingdom

9.10 United States

9.11 Saudi Arabia

9.12 Sweden

10 Average-speed cameras

10.1 Italy

10.2 The Netherlands

10.3 UK

11 Crime deterrent

12 Enterprise security and services

13 Traffic control

14 Electronic toll collection


14.1 Toll roads

14.2 Portugal

14.3 Charge zones the London congestion charge

14.4 Sweden

15 Usage

16 Challenges

16.1 Controversy

16.2 Plate inconsistency and jurisdictional differences

16.3 Accuracy and measurement of ANPR system performance

17 Other uses

18 Related research society

19 See also

20 References

ANPR is sometimes known by various other terms:

Automatic license-plate recognition (ALPR)

Automatic license-plate reader (ALPR)

Automatic vehicle identification (AVI)

Car plate recognition (CPR)

License-plate recognition (LPR)

Lecture automatique de plaques d'immatriculation (LAPI)

Mobile license-plate reader (MLPR)

Development history[edit]
ANPR was invented in 1976 at the Police Scientific Development Branch in the UK. [citation
Prototype systems were working by 1979, and contracts were let to produce industrial systems,
first at EMI Electronics, and then at Computer Recognition Systems (CRS) in Wokingham, UK. Early
trial systems were deployed on the A1 road and at the Dartford Tunnel. However it did not become
widely used until new developments in cheaper and easier to use software was pioneered during the
1990s. The first arrest through detection of a stolen car was made in 1981[citation needed] and the first
documented case of ANPR in helping solve a murder occurred in November 2005 after the murder
of Sharon Beshenivsky, in which City of Bradford based ANPR played a vital role in locating and
subsequently convicting her killers.[4]

The software aspect of the system runs on standard home computer hardware and can be linked to
other applications or databases. It first uses a series of image manipulation techniques to detect,
normalize and enhance the image of the number plate, and then optical character recognition (OCR)
to extract thealphanumerics of the license plate. ANPR systems are generally deployed in one of two
basic approaches: one allows for the entire process to be performed at the lane location in real-time,
and the other transmits all the images from many lanes to a remote computer location and performs
the OCR process there at some later point in time. When done at the lane site, the information
captured of the plate alphanumeric, date-time, lane identification, and any other information required
is completed in approximately 250 milliseconds. This information can easily be transmitted to a
remote computer for further processing if necessary, or stored at the lane for later retrieval. In the
other arrangement, there are typically large numbers of PCs used in a server farm to handle high
workloads, such as those found in the London congestion charge project. Often in such systems,
there is a requirement to forward images to the remote server, and this can require larger bandwidth
transmission media.


The font onDutch plates was changed to improve plate recognition.

ANPR uses optical character recognition (OCR) on images taken by cameras. WhenDutch vehicle
registration plates switched to a different style in 2002, one of the changes made was to the font,
introducing small gaps in some letters (such as P andR) to make them more distinct and therefore
more legible to such systems. Some license plate arrangements use variations in font sizes and
positioningANPR systems must be able to cope with such differences in order to be truly effective.
More complicated systems can cope with international variants, though many programs are
individually tailored to each country.
The cameras used can include existing road-rule enforcement or closed-circuit television cameras,
as well as mobile units, which are usually attached to vehicles. Some systems use infrared cameras
to take a clearer image of the plates.[5][6][7][8][9] [10] [11][12][13][14]

ANPR in mobile systems[edit]

The Dubai police use ANPR cameras to monitor vehicles in front and either side of the patrol car

A Merseyside Police car equipped with mobile ANPR.

During the 1990s, significant advances in technology took automatic number plate recognition
(ANPR) systems from limited expensive, hard to set up, fixed based applications to simple "point and
shoot" mobile ones. This was made possible by the creation of software that ran on cheaper PC
based, non-specialist hardware that also no longer needed to be given the pre-defined angles,
direction, size and speed in which the plates would be passing the cameras field of view. Further
scaled-down components at more cost-effective price points led to a record number of deployments
by law enforcement agencies around the world. Smaller cameras with the ability to read license
plates at higher speeds, along with smaller, more durable processors that fit in the trunks of police
vehicles, allowed law enforcement officers to patrol daily with the benefit of license plate reading in
real time, when they can interdict immediately.
Despite their effectiveness, there are noteworthy challenges related with mobile ANPRs. One of the
biggest is that the processor and the cameras must work fast enough to accommodate relative

speeds of more than 100 mph (160 km/h), a likely scenario in the case of oncoming traffic. This
equipment must also be very efficient since the power source is the vehicle battery, and equipment
must be small to minimize the space it requires.
Relative speed is only one issue that affects the camera's ability to actually read a license plate.
Algorithms must be able to compensate for all the variables that can affect the ANPR's ability to
produce an accurate read, such as time of day, weather and angles between the cameras and the
license plates. A system's illumination wavelengths can also have a direct impact on the resolution
and accuracy of a read in these conditions.
Installing ANPR cameras on law enforcement vehicles requires careful consideration of the
juxtaposition of the cameras to the license plates they are to read. Using the right number of
cameras and positioning them accurately for optimal results can prove challenging, given the various
missions and environments at hand. Highway patrol requires forward-looking cameras that span
multiple lanes and are able to read license plates at very high speeds. City patrol needs shorter
range, lower focal length cameras for capturing plates on parked cars. Parking lots with
perpendicularly parked cars often require a specialized camera with a very short focal length. Most
technically advanced systems are flexible and can be configured with a number of cameras ranging
from one to four which can easily be repositioned as needed. States with rear-only license plates
have an additional challenge since a forward-looking camera is ineffective with oncoming traffic. In
this case one camera may be turned backwards.


Steps 2, 3 and 4: The license plate is normalized for brightness and contrast, and then the characters are segmented
to be ready for OCR.

There are seven primary algorithms that the software requires for identifying a license plate:
1. Plate localization responsible for finding and isolating the plate
on the picture.
2. Plate orientation and sizing compensates for the skew of the
plate and adjusts the dimensions to the required size.
3. Normalization adjusts the brightness and contrast of the image.
4. Character segmentation finds the individual characters on the
5. Optical character recognition.

6. Syntactical/Geometrical analysis check characters and positions

against country-specific rules.
7. The averaging of the recognised value over multiple fields/images
to produce a more reliable or confident result. Especially since any
single image may contain a reflected light flare, be partially
obscured or other temporary effect.
The complexity of each of these subsections of the program determines the accuracy of the system.
During the third phase (normalization), some systems use edge detection techniques to increase the
picture difference between the letters and the plate backing. A median filter may also be used
to reduce the visual noise on the image.


Early ANPR systems were unable to read white or silver lettering on black background, as permitted on UK vehicles
built prior to 1973.

Swedish licenseplate

Must be able to recognize

international license plates as such.

There are a number of possible difficulties that the software must be able to cope with. These

Poor file resolution, usually because the plate is too far away but
sometimes resulting from the use of a low-quality camera.

Blurry images, particularly motion blur.

Poor lighting and low contrast due to overexposure, reflectionor


An object obscuring (part of) the plate, quite often a tow bar, or dirt on
the plate.

A different font, popular for vanity plates (some countries do not allow
such plates, eliminating the problem).

Circumvention techniques.

Lack of coordination between countries or states. Two cars from

different countries or states can have the same number but different
design of the plate.

While some of these problems can be corrected within the software, it is primarily left to
the hardware side of the system to work out solutions to these difficulties. Increasing the height of
the camera may avoid problems with objects (such as other vehicles) obscuring the plate but
introduces and increases other problems, such as the adjusting for the increased skew of the plate.
On some cars, tow bars may obscure one or two characters of the license plate. Bikes on bike racks
can also obscure the number plate, though in some countries and jurisdictions, such as Victoria,
Australia, "bike plates" are supposed to be fitted. Some small-scale systems allow for some errors in
the license plate. When used for giving specific vehicles access to a barricaded area, the decision
may be made to have an acceptable error rate of one character. This is because the likelihood of an
unauthorized car having such a similar license plate is seen as quite small. However, this level of
inaccuracy would not be acceptable in most applications of an ANPR system.

Imaging hardware[edit]
At the front end of any ANPR system is the imaging hardware which captures the image of the
license plates. The initial image capture forms a critically important part of the ANPR system which,
in accordance to the Garbage In, Garbage Out principle of computing, will often determine the
overall performance.
License plate capture is typically performed by specialized cameras designed specifically for the
task, although new software techniques are being implemented that support any I.P. based
surveillance camera and increase the utility of ANPR for perimeter security applications. Factors
which pose difficulty for license plate imaging cameras include speed of the vehicles being recorded,
varying ambient lighting conditions, headlight glare and harsh environmental conditions. Most
dedicated license plate capture cameras will incorporate infrared illumination in order to solve the
problems of lighting and plate reflectivity.
Many countries now use license plates that are retroreflective.[15] This returns the light back to the
source and thus improves the contrast of the image. In some countries, the characters on the plate
are not reflective, giving a high level of contrast with the reflective background in any lighting
conditions. A camera that makes use of active infrared imaging (with a normal colour filter over the
lens and an infrared illuminator next to it) benefits greatly from this as the infrared waves are
reflected back from the plate. This is only possible on dedicated ANPR cameras, however, and so
cameras used for other purposes must rely more heavily on the software capabilities. Further, when
a full-colour image is required as well as use of the ANPR-retrieved details it is necessary to have
one infrared-enabled camera and one normal (colour) camera working together.
To avoid blurring it is ideal to have the shutter speed of a dedicated camera set to 1/1000 of a
second. Because the car is moving, slower shutter speeds could result in an image which is too
blurred to read using the OCR software, especially if the camera is much higher up than the vehicle.
In slow-moving traffic, or when the camera is at a lower level and the vehicle is at an angle
approaching the camera, the shutter speed does not need to be so fast. Shutter speeds of 1/500 of a
second can cope with traffic moving up to 40 mph (64 km/h) and 1/250 of a second up to 5 mph
(8 km/h). License plate capture cameras can now produce usable images from vehicles traveling at
120 mph (190 km/h).

To maximize the chances of effective license plate capture, installers should carefully consider the
positioning of the camera relative to the target capture area. Exceeding threshold angles of
incidence between camera lens and license plate will greatly reduce the probability of obtaining
usable images due to distortion. Manufacturers have developed tools to help eliminate errors from
the physical installation of license plate capture cameras

Circumvention techniques[edit]
Vehicle owners have used a variety of techniques in an attempt to evade ANPR systems and roadrule enforcement cameras in general. One method increases the reflective properties of the lettering
and makes it more likely that the system will be unable to locate the plate or produce a high enough
level of contrast to be able to read it. This is typically done by using a plate cover or a spray, though
claims regarding the effectiveness of the latter are disputed. In most jurisdictions, the covers are
illegal and covered under existing laws, while in most countries there is no law to disallow the use of
the sprays.[16][17]Other users have attempted to smear their license plate with dirt or utilize covers to
mask the plate.
Novelty frames around Texas license plates were made illegal in Texas on 1 September 2003 by
Texas Senate Bill 439 because they caused problems with ANPR devices. That law made it a Class
C misdemeanor (punishable by a fine of up to US $200), or Class B (punishable by a fine of up to
US $2,000 and 180 days in jail) if it can be proven that the owner did it to deliberately obscure their
plates.[18] The law was later clarified in 2007 to allow Novelty frames.
If an ANPR system cannot read the plate, it can flag the image for attention, with the human
operators looking to see if they are able to identify the alphanumerics.
In order to avoid surveillance or penalty charges, there has been an upsurge in car cloning. This is
usually achieved by copying registration plates from another car of a similar model and age. This
can be difficult to detect, especially as cloners may change the registration plates and travel
behavior to hinder investigations.

Police enforcement[edit]

Mobile ANPR cameras fitted to aNew South Wales Police ForceHighway Patrol vehicle.

Closed-circuit television cameras such as these can be used to take the images scanned by automatic number plate
recognition systems

Several State Police Forces, and the Department of Justice (Victoria)[19] use both fixed and mobile
ANPR systems. The New South Wales Police Force Highway Patrol were the first to trial and use a
fixed ANPR camera system in Australia in 2005. In 2009 they began a roll-out of a mobile ANPR
system (known officially as MANPR)[20] with three infrared cameras fitted to its Highway Patrol fleet.
The system identifies unregistered and stolen vehicles as well as disqualified or suspended
drivers as well as other 'persons of interest' such as persons having outstanding warrants. [22]

The city of Mechelen uses an ANPR system since September 2011 to scan all cars crossing the city
limits (inbound and outbound). Cars listed on 'black lists' (no insurance, stolen, etc.) generate an
alarm in the dispatching room, so they can be intercepted by a patrol. As of early 2012, 1 million cars
per week are automatically checked in this way.[23]

The technique is tested by the Danish police. It will be in permanent use from the end of 2015. [24]

180 gantries over major roads have been built throughout the country. These together with a further
250 fixed cameras is to enable a levy of an eco tax on lorries over 3.5 tonnes. The system is
currently being opposed and whilst they may be collecting data on vehicles passing the cameras, no
eco tax is being charged.[25]

On 11 March 2008, the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany ruled that some areas of the laws
permitting the use of automated number plate recognition systems in Germany violated the right
toprivacy.[26] More specifically, the court found that the retention of any sort of information (i.e.,
number plate data) which was not for any pre-destined use (e.g., for use tracking suspected
terrorists or for enforcement of speeding laws) was in violation of German law. These systems were
provided by Jenoptik Robot GmbH, and called TraffiCapture.[27]

Several Hungarian auxiliary police units use a system called Matrix Police[28] in cooperation with
the police. It consists of a portable computer equipped with a webcam that scans the stolen car
database using automatic number plate recognition. The system is installed on the dashboard of
selected patrol vehicles (PDA based handheld versions also exist) and is mainly used to control the
license plate of parking cars. As the Auxiliary Police do not have the authority to order moving
vehicles to stop, if a stolen car is found, the formal police is informed.

Several cities have testedand some have put into servicethe "City Security Administration
System", i.e., capital Ankara, has debuted KGYS- "Kent Guvenlik Yonetim Sistemi" which consists of
a registration plate number recognition system on the main arteries and city exits. [29] The system has
been used with two cameras per lane, one for plate recognition, one for speed detection. Now the
system has been widened to network all the registration number cameras together, and enforcing
average speed over preset distances. Some arteries have 70Kmh limit, and some 50 kmh, and
photo evidence with date-time details are posted to registration address if speed violation is

detected. As of 2012, the fine for exceeding the speed limit for more than 30% is approximately

The project of system integration OLLI Technology and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of
UkraineDepartment of State Traffic Inspection (STI) experiments on the introduction of a modern
technical complex which is capable to locate stolen cars, drivers deprived of driving licenses and
other problem cars in real time. The Ukrainian complex "Video control" [30] working by a principle of
video fixing of the car with recognition of license plates with check under data base.

United Kingdom[edit]

An ANPR Equipped Vectra of theGreater Manchester Police force

Main article: Police-enforced ANPR in the UK

The UK has an extensive (ANPR) automatic number plate recognition CCTV network. Effectively,
the police and security services track all car movements around the country and are able to track
any car in close to real time. Vehicle movements are stored for 2 years in the National ANPR Data
Center to be analyzed for intelligence and to be used as evidence.
In 1997 a system of one hundred ANPR cameras, codenamed GLUTTON, was installed to feed into
the automated British Military Intelligence Systems in Northern Ireland.[citation needed] Further cameras
were also installed on the British mainland, including unspecified ports on the east and west coasts.
[citation needed]

United States[edit]

A City of Alexandria police car equipped with mobile ALPR.

ANPR cameras in operation on theBrooklyn Bridge in New York.

In the United States, ANPR systems are more commonly referred to as ALPR (Automatic License
Plate Reader/Recognition) technology, due to differences in language (i.e., "number plates" are
referred to as "license plates" in American English)
Mobile ANPR use is widespread among US law enforcement agencies at the city, county, state and
federal level. According to a 2012 report by the Police Executive Research Forum, approximately
71% of all US police departments use some form of ANPR.[31] Mobile ANPR is becoming a significant
component of municipal predictive policing strategies and intelligence gathering, [32] as well as for
recovery of stolen vehicles, identification of wanted felons, and revenue collection from individuals
who are delinquent on city or state taxes or fines, or monitoring for "Amber Alerts". Successfully
recognized plates may be matched against databases including "wanted person", "protection order",
missing person, gang member, known and suspected terrorist, supervised release, immigration
violator, and National Sex Offender lists.[33] In addition to the real-time processing of license plate
numbers, ALPR systems in the US collect (and can indefinitely store) data from each license plate
capture. Images, dates, times and GPS coordinates can be stockpiled and can help place a suspect
at a scene, aid in witness identification, pattern recognition or the tracking of individuals.
An early, private sector mobile ANPR application has been applications for vehicle repossession and
recovery[34]), although the application of ANPR by private companies to collect information from
privately owned vehicles or collected from private property (for example, driveways) has become an
issue of sensitivity and public debate.[35] Other ALPR uses include parking enforcement, and revenue
collection from individuals who are delinquent on city or state taxes or fines. The technology is often
featured in the reality TV show Parking Wars featured on A&E Network. In the show, tow truck
drivers and booting teams use the ALPR to find delinquent vehicles with high amounts of unpaid
parking fines.

Saudi Arabia[edit]
Vehicle registration plates in Saudi Arabia use white background, but several vehicle types may have
a different background. United States diplomatic plates have the letters 'USD', which in Arabic reads
'DSU' when read from right to left in the direction of Arabic script. There are only 17 Arabic letters
used on the registration plates.[36] A Challenge for plates recognition in Saudi Arabia is the size of the
digits. Some plates use both Eastern Arabic numerals and the 'Western Arabic' equivalents. A
research with source code is available for APNR Arabic digits.[37]

The technique is tested by the Swedish police at nine different places in Sweden. [38]

Average-speed cameras[edit]
Main article: Speed limit enforcement

ANPR is used for speed limit enforcement in Australia, Austria,[39] Belgium,[40] Dubai (UAE),[citation
France, Italy,[41] The Netherlands,[42] Spain,[43] and the UK.[44]
This works by tracking vehicles' travel time between two fixed points, and calculating the average
speed. These cameras are claimed to have an advantage over traditional speed cameras in
maintaining steady legal speeds over extended distances, rather than encouraging heavy braking on
approach to specific camera locations and subsequent acceleration back to illegal speeds. [45]

In Italian Highways has developed a monitoring system named Tutor covering more than 2500 km
(2012). The Tutor system is also able to intercept cars while changing lanes. [46]

The Netherlands[edit]
Average speed cameras (trajectcontrole) are in place in the Netherlands since 2002. As of July
2009, 12 cameras were operational, mostly in the west of the country and along the A12.[45] Some of
these are divided in several sections to allow for cars leaving and entering the motorway.
A first experimental system was tested on a short stretch of the A2 in 1997 and was deemed a big
success by the police, reducing overspeeding to 0.66%, compared to 5 to 6% when regular speed
cameras were used at the same location.[47] The first permanent average speed cameras were
installed on the A13 in 2002, shortly after the speed limit was reduced to 80 km/h to limit noise and
air pollution in the area.[48] In 2007, average speed cameras resulted in 1.7 million fines for
overspeeding out of a total of 9.7 millions. According to the Dutch Attorney General, the average
number of violation of the speed limits on motorway sections equipped with average speed cameras
is between 1 and 2%, compared to 10 to 15% elsewhere. [49]

See also: Road speed limit enforcement in the United Kingdom
One of the most notable stretches of average speed cameras in the UK is found on the A77 road in
Scotland, with 32 miles (51 km) being monitored between Glasgow and Ayr.[50] In 2006 it was
confirmed that speeding tickets could potentially be avoided from the 'SPECS' cameras by changing
lanes and theRAC Foundation feared that people may play "Russian Roulette" changing from one
lane to another to lessen their odds of being caught. [44] However, in 2007 the system was upgraded
for multi-lane use and in 2008 the manufacturer described the "myth" as categorically untrue.
There exists evidence that implementation of systems such as SPECS has a considerable effect
on the volume of drivers travelling at excessive speeds; on the stretch of road mentioned above
(A77 Between Glasgow and Ayr) there has been noted a "huge drop" in speeding violations since
the introduction of a SPECS system.[50]

Crime deterrent[edit]
Recent innovations have contributed to the adoption of ANPR for perimeter security and access
control applications at government facilities. Within the US, "homeland security" efforts to protect
against alleged "acts of terrorism" have resulted in adoption of ANPR for sensitive facilities such as
embassies, schools, airports, maritime ports, military and federal buildings, law enforcement and
government facilities, and transportation centers. ANPR is marketed as able to be implemented
through networks of IP based surveillance cameras that perform "double duty" alongside facial
recognition, object tracking, and recording systems for the purpose of monitoring suspicious or
anomalous behavior, improving access control, and matching against watch lists. ANPR systems are
most commonly installed at points of significant sensitivity, ingress or egress. Major US agencies
such as the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, the Department of
Transportation and the Department of Defense have purchased ANPR for perimeter security
applications.[52] Large networks of ANPR systems are being installed by cities such as Boston,

London and New York City to provide citywide protection against acts of terrorism, and to provide
support for public gatherings and public spaces.[53]

Enterprise security and services[edit]

In addition to government facilities, many private sector industries with facility security concerns are
beginning to implement ANPR solutions. Examples include casinos, hospitals, museums, parking
facilities, and resorts.[54] In the US, private facilities typically cannot access government or police
watch lists, but may develop and match against their own databases for customers, VIPs, critical
personnel or "banned person" lists. In addition to providing perimeter security, private ANPR has
service applications for valet / recognized customer and VIP recognition, logistics and key personnel
tracking, sales and advertising, parking management, and logistics (vendor and support vehicle

Traffic control[edit]

Video tolling at Schnberg, Austria

Many cities and districts have developed traffic control systems to help monitor the movement and
flow of vehicles around the road network. This had typically involved looking at historical data,
estimates, observations and statistics, such as:

Car park usage

Pedestrian crossing usage

Number of vehicles along a road

Areas of low and high congestion

Frequency, location and cause of road works

CCTV cameras can be used to help traffic control centres by giving them live data, allowing for traffic
management decisions to be made in real-time. By using ANPR on this footage it is possible to
monitor the travel of individual vehicles, automatically providing information about the speed and
flow of various routes. These details can highlight problem areas as and when they occur and help
the centre to make informed incident management decisions.
Some counties of the United Kingdom have worked with Siemens Traffic to develop traffic monitoring
systems for their own control centres and for the public.[55] Projects such as Hampshire County
Council'sROMANSE provide an interactive and real-time web site showing details about traffic in the
city. The site shows information about car parks, ongoing road works, special events and footage

taken from CCTV cameras. ANPR systems can be used to provide average point-to-point journey
times along particular routes, which can be displayed on a variable-message sign(VMS) giving
drivers the ability to plan their route. ROMANSE also allows travellers to see the current situation
using a mobile device with an Internet connection (such as WAP, GPRS or 3G), allowing them to
view mobile device CCTV images within the Hampshire road network.
The UK company Trafficmaster has used ANPR since 1998 to estimate average traffic speeds on
non-motorway roads without the results being skewed by local fluctuations caused by traffic lights
and similar. The company now operates a network of over 4000 ANPR cameras, but claims that only
the four most central digits are identified, and no numberplate data is retained. [56][57][58]

IEEE transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems(IEEE

Intelligent Transportation Systems Society) published some papers on
the plate number recognition technologies and applications.[relevant? discuss]

Electronic toll collection[edit]

Toll roads[edit]

The FasTrak system in Orange County uses ANPR and radiotransponders

Film showing the approach to and passing of a toll station in Italy, using a Telepass OBU. Note the yellow Telepass
lane signs and road markings and the sound emitted by the OBU when passing the lane

Ontario's 407 ETR highway uses a combination of ANPR and radiotransponders to toll vehicles
entering and exiting the road. Radio antennas are located at each junction and detect the
transponders, logging the unique identity of each vehicle in much the same way as the ANPR
system does. Without ANPR as a second system it would not be possible to monitor all the traffic.
Drivers who opt to rent a transponder for C$2.55 per month are not charged the "Video Toll Charge"
of C$3.60 for using the road, with heavy vehicles (those with a gross weight of over 5,000 kg) being
required to use one. Using either system, users of the highway are notified of the usage charges by
There are numerous other electronic toll collection networks which use this combination of Radio
frequency identification and ANPR. These include:

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, began using an

all-electronic tolling system combining Fastrak and ANPR on March
27, 2013.[59]

NC Quick Pass for the Interstate 540 (North Carolina) Triangle

Expressway in Wake County, North Carolina

Bridge Pass[60] for the Saint John Harbour Bridge in Saint John, New

Quickpass[61] at the Golden Ears Bridge, crossing the Fraser

River between Langley and Maple Ridge

CityLink & Eastlink in Melbourne, Australia

Gateway Motorway and Logan Motorway, Brisbane, Australia

FasTrak in California, United States

Highway 6 in Israel

Tunnels in Hong Kong

Autopista Central[62] in Santiago, Chile (site in Spanish)

E-ZPass in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts (as Fast Lane until
2012), Virginia (formerly Smart Tag), and other states. Maryland Route
200 uses a combination of E-ZPass and ANPR.

TollTag in North Texas.

I-Pass in Illinois

Pike Pass in Oklahoma

Peach Pass I-85 Atlanta, GA Gwinnett County

OGS (Otomatik Gei Sistemi) used at Bosphorus Bridge, Fatih Sultan

Mehmet Bridge, and Trans European Motorway entry points
in stanbul, Turkey

M50 Westlink Toll in Dublin, Ireland

Hi-pass in South Korea

Northern Gateway, SH 1, Auckland, New Zealand

Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, Seattle, and Washington State Route

167 HOT-lanes in westernWashington

ETC[63] in Taiwan

This section does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this section
by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged
and removed. (December 2012)
Portuguese roads have old highways with toll station where drivers can pay with cards and also
lanes where there are electronic collection systems. However most new highways only have the
option of electronic toll collection system. The electronic toll collection system comprises three
different structures: ANPR which works with infrared cameras and reads license plates from every
vehicle Lasers to measure the volumetry of the vehicle to confirm whether it is a regular car or if it is
a SUV or truck as charges are very different RFID-like to read smart tags that cars can have
installed. When the smart tag is installed, the car is quickly identified and owners bank account is
automatically deducted. This process is realized at any speed up to over 250 km per hour. If the car
does not have the smart tag, the driver is required to go to a pay station to pay the tolls between 3rd
and 5th day after with a surplus charge. If he fails to do so, the owner is sent a letter home with a
heavy fine. If this is not paid, it increases five-fold and after that, the car is inserted into a police
database for vehicle impounding. This system is also used in some limited access areas of main
cities to allow only entry from pre-registered residents. It is planned to be implemented both in more
roads and in city entrance toll collection/access restriction. The efficacy of the system is considered
to be so high that it is almost impossible for the driver to complain.
See also: List of electronic toll collection systems

Charge zones the London congestion charge[edit]

The London congestion chargescheme uses 230 cameras and ANPR to help monitor vehicles in the charging zone

The London congestion charge is an example of a system that charges motorists entering a
payment area. Transport for London(TfL) uses ANPR systems and charges motorists a daily fee of
10 paid before 10pm if they enter, leave or move around within the congestion charge zone
between 7 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., Monday to Friday. A reduced fee of 9 is paid by vehicle owners who
sign up for the automatic deduction scheme. Fines for traveling within the zone without paying the
charge are 60 per infraction if paid before the deadline, doubling to 120 per infraction thereafter.
There are currently 1,500 cameras which use automatic number plate recognition (ANPR)
technology.[64] There are also a number of mobile camera units which may be deployed anywhere in
the zone.
It is estimated that around 98% of vehicles moving within the zone are caught on camera. The video
streams are transmitted to a data centre located in central London where the ANPR software
deduces the registration plate of the vehicle. A second data centre provides a backup location for
image data.

Both front and back number plates are being captured, on vehicles going both in and out this gives
up to four chances to capture the number plates of a vehicle entering and exiting the zone. This list
is then compared with a list of cars whose owners/operators have paid to enter the zone those that
have not paid are fined. The registered owner of such a vehicle is looked up in a database provided
by the DVLA.[65]

In Stockholm, Sweden, ANPR is used for the Stockholm congestion tax, owners of cars driving into
or out of the inner city must pay a charge, depending on the time of the day. From 2013, also for
the Gothenburg congestion tax, which also includes vehicles passing the city on the main highways.

Several UK companies and agencies use ANPR systems. These include Vehicle and Operator
Services Agency (VOSA),[66] Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)[67] and Transport for

The introduction of ANPR systems has led to fears of misidentification and the furthering of 1984style surveillance.[69] In the United States, some such as Gregg Easterbrook oppose what they call
"machines that issue speeding tickets and red-light tickets" as the beginning of a slippery
slope towards an automated justice system:
"A machine classifies a person as an offender, and you can't
confront your accuser because there is no accuser... can it be wise
to establish a principle that when a machine says you did
something illegal, you are presumed guilty?"[70]
Similar criticisms have been raised in other countries. Easterbrook
also argues that this technology is employed to maximize revenue for
the state, rather than to promote safety.[70] The electronic surveillance
system produces tickets which in the US are often in excess of $100,
and are virtually impossible for a citizen to contest in court without the
help of an attorney.[citation needed] The revenues generated by these
machines are shared generously with the private corporation that
builds and operates them, creating a strong incentive to tweak the
system to generate as many tickets as possible.
Older systems had been notably unreliable; in the UK this has been
known to lead to charges being made incorrectly with the vehicle
owner having to pay 10 in order to be issued with proof (or not) of the
offense. Improvements in technology have drastically decreased error
rates, but false accusations are still frequent enough to be a problem.
Perhaps the best known incident involving the abuse of an ANPR
database in North America is the case ofEdmonton Sun reporter Kerry
Diotte in 2004. Diotte wrote an article critical of Edmonton police use
of traffic cameras for revenue enhancement, and in retaliation was
added to an ANPR database of "high-risk drivers" in an attempt to
monitor his habits and create an opportunity to arrest him. [71][72][73] The
police chief and several officers were fired as a result, and The Office

of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada expressed public concern

over the "growing police use of technology to spy on motorists."[74]
Other concerns include the storage of information that could be used
to identify people and store details about their driving habits and daily
life, contravening the Data Protection Act along with similar legislation
(see personally identifiable information). The laws in the UK are strict
for any system that uses CCTV footage and can identify individuals.[75]

Also of concern is the safety of the data once it is mined, following the
discovery of police surveillance records lost in a gutter.[83][84]
There is also a case in the UK for saying that use of ANPR cameras is
against the law under theRegulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
The breach exists, some say, in the fact that ANPR is used to
monitor the activities of law-abiding citizens and treats everyone like
the suspected criminals intended to be surveyed under the act. The
police themselves have been known to refer to the system of ANPR as
a "24/7 traffic movement database" which is a diversion from its
intended purpose of identifying vehicles involved in criminal activities.
The opposing viewpoint is that where the plates have been cloned,
a 'read' of an innocent motorist's vehicle will allow the elimination of
that vehicle from an investigation by visual examination of the images
stored. Likewise, stolen vehicles are read by ANPR systems between
the time of theft and report to the Police, assisting in the investigation.
The Associated Press reported in August 2011 that New York Police
Department cars and license plate tracking equipment purchased with
federal HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) funds were used
to spy on Muslims at mosques, and to track the license plate numbers
of worshipers. [87] Police in unmarked cars outfitted with electronic
license plate readers would drive down the street and automatically
catalog the plates of everyone parked near the mosque, amassing a
covert database that would be distributed among officers and used to
profile Muslims in public.[88]
In 2013 the American Civil Liberties Union released 26,000 pages of
data about ANPR systems obtained from local, state, and federal
agencies through freedom of information laws. "The documents paint
a startling picture of a technology deployed with too few rules that is
becoming a tool for mass routine location tracking and surveillance"
wrote the ACLU. The ACLU reported that in many locations the
devices were being used to store location information on vehicles
which were not suspected of any particular offense. "Private
companies are also using license plate readers and sharing the
information they collect with police with little or no oversight or privacy
protections. A lack of regulation means that policies governing how
long our location data is kept vary widely," the ACLU said.[89] In 2012
the ACLU filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security,
which funds many local and state ANPR programs through grants,
after the agency failed to provide access to records the ACLU had
requested under the Freedom of Information Act about the programs. [90]

Plate inconsistency and jurisdictional differences [edit]

Many ANPR systems claim accuracy when trained to match plates

from a single jurisdiction or region, but can fail when trying to
recognize plates from other jurisdictions due to variations in format,
font, color, layout, and other plate features.[91] Some jurisdictions offer
vanity or affinity plates (particularly in the US), which can create many
variations within a single jurisdiction.[92]
From time to time, US states will make significant changes in their
license plate protocol that will affect OCR accuracy. They may add a
character or add a new license plate design. ALPR systems must
adapt to these changes quickly in order to be effective. Another
challenge with ALPR systems is that some states have the same
license plate protocol. For example more than one state uses the
standard three letters followed by four numbers. So each time the
ALPR systems alarms, it is the users responsibility to make sure that
the plate which caused the alarm matches the state associated with
the license plate listed on the in-car computer. For maximum
effectiveness, an ANPR system should be able to recognize plates
from any jurisdiction, and the jurisdiction to which they are associated,
but these many variables make such tasks difficult.
Currently at least one US ANPR provider (PlateSmart) claims their
system has been independently reviewed as able to accurately
recognize the US state jurisdiction of license plates, and one
European ANPR provider claims their system can differentiate all EU
plate jurisdictions.[93][94]

Accuracy and measurement of ANPR system

A 2008 article in Parking Trend International discussed a disparity in
claimed vs. experienced license plate recognition read rates, with
manufacturers claiming that their recognition engines can correctly
report 98% of the time, although customers experience only 90% to
94% success, even with new equipment under perfect conditions.
Early systems were reportedly only 60% to 80% reliable. [95]
True system error rate is the product of its subsystem error rates
(image capture, license plate image extraction, LP image
interpretation); slight increases in subsystem error rates can produce
dramatic reductions of read rates. The effects of real-world interfering
factors on read rate are not uniformly specified or tested by
manufacturers. The article states "there is a need for the industry to
adopt a standard performance measurement protocol to enable
potential customers assess the best fit for their particular

Other uses[edit]
ANPR systems may also be used for/by:

Section control, to measure average vehicle speed over longer


Border crossings

Automobile repossessions[34][97]

petrol stations to log when a motorist drives away without paying

for their fuel.

A marketing tool to log patterns of use

Targeted advertising, a-la "Minority Report"-style billboards.[98][99]

Traffic management systems, which determine traffic flow using

the time it takes vehicles to pass two ANPR sites[100]

Analyses of travel behaviour (route choice, origin-destination etc.)

for transport planning purposes[101][102]

Drive Through Customer Recognition, to automatically recognize

customers based on their license plate and offer them the items
they ordered the last time they used the service.

To assist visitor management systems in recognizing guest


Police and Auxiliary Police

Car parking companies


Related research society[edit]

IEEE Intelligent Transportation Systems Society

See also[edit]
Wikimedia Commons has
media related to Automatic
number plate recognition.

AI effect

Applications of artificial intelligence

Closed circuit television

Facial recognition system

Parking lot

Road Policing Unit

SPECS (speed camera)

Vehicle location data


List of emerging technologies

Outline of artificial intelligence

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chapter=ignored (help)


Automatic number plate recognition


Applications of computer vision

Artificial intelligence applications

Authentication methods

Electronic toll collection

Law enforcement equipment

Road traffic management

Optical character recognition

Automatic identification and data capture

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